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Manning Hits Burress in Overtime to Ground Eagles

One never knows what strange things to expect from an Eagles-Giants game, and this one was as unpredictable as could be. After the Giants took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field to score on a touchdown pass to Amani Toomer, the lights went out for New York. The Eagles scored the next 24 points over the first three quarters and led 24-7 going into the fourth. Philadelphia had outgained the Giants 406 yards to 108, and Donovan McNabb had outpassed Eli Manning 320 yards to 146. Manning had been sacked six times, and Eagles-killer Tiki Barber had just 14 yards on 10 carries.

It all changed in the most improbable fashion: the Giants started their magnificent road comeback by fumbling. As the fourth quarter started, the Giants had reached their own 45-yard line, having started the drive at their own 9 four minutes before. A run and a pass gave New York a first down on the Eagles 39. Manning dropped back again and hit Plaxico Burress over the middle. As Burress was being tackled, Brian Dawkins stripped the ball at the 16. Eagles safety Michael Lewis tried to fall on the ball at the 5, but it bounced into the end zone, where the Giants Tim Carter recovered it for an incredible touchdown.

But even with this good fortune, time was running out. Neither the Eagles nor the Giants could move the ball the next two times they had it, and the Eagles started to run out the clock. However, Eagles star Brian Westbrook fumbled at his own 32, and the Giants recovered the ball with 4:11 to play. Four plays later, Manning hit Amani Toomer for a 22-yard touchdown, and New York trailed by only three with 3:28 to go.

Philadelphia managed just one first down and then punted back to the Giants, who took over on their own 20 with no timeouts and 58 seconds left. New York moved to midfield with 15 seconds to go. Manning then hit Jeremy Shockey at the Eagles 32, and Eagles defensive end Trent Cole was flagged 15 more yards for trying to kick Giants guard Kareem McKenzie. That loss of composure by Philadelphia allowed Jay Feely to kick his game-tying field goal from 35 yards away instead of 50. The game was sent into overtime.

While both teams were physically drained on this 79-degree day, the Eagles were shell-shocked as well. Neither team could score on its first possession, but New

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York began to move on its second chance. Twelve plays took the Giants from their own 15 to the Eagles 31 and set the stage for the game-winning play. Facing a third-and-11, Manning realized an all-out blitz was coming and alerted Burress to look up fast.

Manning dropped back swiftly, but just as quickly blitzing safety Brian Dawkins was in his face. Eli tossed a high arcing pass to the 6’5″ Burress over the head of Eagles cor-nerback Sheldon Brown; Burress caught it at the 5, carrying Brown into the end zone with him for the win. Burress jumped up and threw the ball into the stands while the normally stoic Manning leaped into the arms of guard Chris Snee to punctuate this thrilling Giants victory. Meanwhile, the thoroughly dehydrated Amani Toomer and Tim Carter had to be helped from the field and needed multiple IV bags in the locker room before they could truly savor this great win.

Plaxico Burress catches the 31-yard game-winning touchdown pass ahead of reaching Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)

We knew it would be an all-out blitz, so I told Plaxico I was going to drop back as fast as I could and throw it up as high as I could.

At 6’6″, either he’s going to catch it or no one else is. On that play, I don’t want to take a sack because that puts us out of field-goal range.

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